Edward Elgar, 2008, xxiv + 767 pp, hbk, 1 84720 577 1, £195
The forty-six papers collected here discuss the market failure and second best justifications for government expenditure, theoretical and methodological foundations of welfare measurement, income redistribution, the social costs of monopoly, welfare measurement in single and multiple market models, measurement of welfare in a context of risk and uncertainty, the welfare effects of information and advertising, and non-market welfare measurement (for instance, in the household). All of the papers apply the economist’s methods to ‘welfare’: to the faring well of individuals in society. Of course, this isn’t all there is to be said about welfare, but it is an important perspective because it enables the activities of the private and public sectors to be evaluated using the same tool-kit, thus enabling us to understand their connections and differences.
Most of these papers assume an understanding of welfare economics and its methods, and to students who possess this understanding the collection will be a valuable resource – and if they can’t afford it then they should ask their library to obtain it.
As a collection it is very thorough. It contains both classics and some more recent pieces – though it’s a pity that some of A.B. Atkinson’s work on flat taxes and Basic Income isn’t included; and it would also have been interesting to see some of the more recent work on labour market participation. For if it is true that welfare and work are intimately related (and the evidence suggests that they are) then the application of the economist’s methods to labour market behaviour would have contributed to this volume on welfare economics.
But maybe there just wasn’t space, for at 767 pages this is already a substantial volume and it will make available to students, teachers and researchers some important papers which otherwise they might struggle to find.